Campus Life

The Greek Decision

Fraternities and Sororities: That’s what we’re talking about here — whether to join or remain a “GDI” (“Gosh Darn Independent” [a censored version of that term]).

All you recently minted high school graduates who will enter your respective halls of ivy this fall (or late summer) have no doubt encountered the so-called “Greek Index” as you conducted your college search. One of the criteria you may have weighed about your candidate schools may have been how prevalent and influential fraternity and sorority life is on campus and how that factor impacts student social life.

Questions you may have asked include “If I choose not to join a frat or sorority, what options are available for a GDI?” Another perhaps more important question that might go unasked is “What kinds of initiation practices do these organizations conduct for pledges?” It seems as though we’ve seen more than a reasonable level of negative headlines about hazing over the past several years, or maybe even longer.


Let’s take a closer look at some of the issues involving hazing and its consequences, along with the kinds of behaviors the more notorious Greek chapters have demonstrated lately. We can start with my own alma mater, Penn State University in University Park, Pa.

 

In a news story that has been raging for some time in Central Pennsylvania and has echoed across the national media, PSU fraternity Kappa Delta Rho (KDR) has been suspended for three years do to their posting of a “secret” Facebook page displaying photographs of Penn State women students in various states of undress and other unseemly sexually tinged circumstances.

Adding fuel to the outrage over the Facebook postings is a series of new accusations from a so-called whistleblower, a former KDR pledge, who has filled a lawsuit against Penn State administrators for their alleged failure to act against the behaviors of KDR members. Here’s some background from an Associate Press report (NOTE: Not for the faint of heart and/or while dining):

A former student who blew the whistle on a Penn State fraternity’s secret Facebook page featuring photos of naked women said the university ignored his complaints about sexual assault, hazing and drug use.

James Vivenzio of Great Falls, Virginia, said in a lawsuit filed Monday that he waited eight months for Penn State to take action before going to police in January.

As a freshman pledge, he said, he was burned with cigarettes, force-fed buckets of liquor mixed with urine, vomit and hot sauce and made to guzzle alcohol as part of fraternity hazing rituals. He compared his experience at Kappa Delta Rho to being in “a gang” and said he feared someone would end up dead.

Penn State quickly denied the claims filed in the lawsuit, which named the school, the fraternity and others as defendants. …

… Penn State recently suspended Kappa Delta Rho for three years. The fraternity’s national office on Monday expelled 38 fraternity members, saying they violated the fraternity’s values. …

… Vivenzio had turned over dozens of texts describing hazing or drug abuse, along with posted photos of men and women, sometimes naked or in sexually suggestive positions, passed out at parties, the lawsuit said.

Amid the hazing, Vivenzio flunked out his freshman year, family lawyer Aaron J. Freiwald said. He returned home during the spring 2013 term, sought treatment for alcohol problems, tried school again last fall, and was eventually hospitalized this year for post-traumatic stress. He first complained to the school in April 2014. …

… Asked why Vivenzio didn’t simply quit the fraternity, Freiwald said the prevailing “bro culture” on many campuses makes that harder than it sounds.

“There’s a social stigma attached to leaving a fraternity,” Freiwald said. …

Some enlightening comments follow the article (currently numbering 734, implying the weight of this story).

In related news, an interesting thread on the College Confidential discussion forum details a report on fraternity and sorority behavior issues. The report’s preface indicates the seriousness of the Greek-related problem:

Last week, Pennsylvania State University ordered its chapter of Kappa Delta Rho fraternity to shut down after a two-month suspension for allegedly posting photos of nude women, some of whom appeared to be unconscious, on a private Facebook page.

Reports like these have become depressingly familiar. In just the spring semester of 2015, 133 fraternity and sorority chapters at 55 U.S. colleges were shut down, suspended, or otherwise punished after alleged offenses including excessive partying, hazing, racism, and sexual assault, according to reports compiled by Bloomberg.

That’s a sobering statistic. Apparently, the lack of sobriety has caused a lot of problems for America’s fraternities and sororities.

Here’s a sampling of posters’ spirited reactions to that College Confidential thread:

– … But predictably, some naïve kid WILL die or WILL be drugged or raped at the hands of their peers. And some will find a way to excuse it because the actions are not solely the domain of the frat boys!

– Hmmn, let me get this straight–we now have an uber sensitive environment and thus we are now reporting many more events and barred activity than ever before? So, if I have correctly translated that statement, my response is that when you have a social organization that for over the last 40 years has had the following: at least a death a year, violent sexual assaults, batteries, forced drinking, scores of racist and misogynistic incidents annually, it a damn high time they take zero tolerance approach to activities that have no place within an educational institution.  

– Just one note: I don’t find it persuasive when people defend fraternities by describing the activities of sororities. 

– My point is that the Greek system has as it primary objective its own self-preservation. So, when push comes to shove, almost literally, the parents will be the parties pushed under the bus.

– I don’t speak for anyone else but myself. But, as both a person who experienced overt racism while in my own college days, but moreover incidents involving my own daughter at the hands of a fraternity, and on a fraternity property, I have a distinct and biased view. I’m unapologetic. But be certain, this is not ideology, this is derived from my own intersection of life with said entities.  

– When they came for the fraternities, I did not speak up, because I was not in a fraternity!  

– At Us like my S’s, where the fraternity houses are owned by the U, the rules are stricter than for the U’s dorms. If there is a drug or alcohol or vandalism violation, the entire chapter is subject to discipline. Unlike in the dorms, where only the particular students who violate the rules are subject to discipline.  

– My fraternity experience, 40 years ago, is a treasured experience. Society changed, the Internet got invented, the drugs changed and the pin ball machines are now called adult video games. Why are some colleges asleep at the wheel? Not only did Penn State management turn a blind eye to assistant football coach a few years ago; today is reported that they ignored a fraternity whistle blower in a current fraternity case. All bad guys must stop and go to jail, immediately.  

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Serious issues and serious opinions. I pose this “Greek Decision” post to alert both students and parents to the impending issues that first-year college students will face regarding their social-life circumstances. What price college community integration?

I was a GDI during my college daze (not a typo). Choosing between the “bro” and “no-bro” cultures can be a difficult decision. Good luck with yours.

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Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles on College Confidential.